about me
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niklas roy
Hello! I'm Niklas Roy, an inventor of useless things. As you can find a lot of information about what I do on the left - I think I don't need to write too much about myself here.

If you want to get in touch with me, you can find my contact details here. In order to stay up to date, subscribe to my RSS feed. For realtime news, follow me on Twitter. Subscribe to my Youtube Channel or have a look at plenty of hires images in my Picasa albums.


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My current project

Saturday February 6, 2016


Dear Interwebz! Since it will take a while until I can post a new project here on my website, I figured it might be nice to let you know what I’m working on right now. My plan is to build a very big hand cranked music box. It will use real instruments – an electric guitar, a keyboard and a drum set. I have worked on the keyboard and guitar mechanisms so far. Here’s a recent photo:

Music Construction Machine

In early summer, the machine will be ready and on public display in a glass pavillion in Wroclaw, Poland. Everyone will be free to operate it 24 hours a day. I’ve drawn a floorplan of the setup as I imagined it, but of course the details might still change. The installation will be called “Music Construction Machine”.

Floor Plan Pavillion
Usually one music box repeats the same melody over and over again. But I’ve decided to build the Music Construction Machine in such way that it generates ever changing melodies. It does that by following an algorithm, which is implemented in mechanical hardware, consisting mainly of ropes, pulleys, springs and weights. The pulleys will drive many different mechanisms, which then will operate the instruments. Besides producing a (hopefully) interesting music, there will be plenty of moving parts to be seen and to be investigated inside the pavillion once visitors start operating the crank.

Plenty of pulleys!

Below you can see the melody mechanism for the keyboard machine. It uses two pulleys of different sizes, which are driven by one rope loop. Both pulleys produce a linear sinewave movement. Due to their different circumferences, the two resulting sinewaves have deviating frequencies. The linear sinewave oscillations then drive the subsequent mechanisms, which move two carriages left and right over the keyboard. From time to time (triggered by a separate rhythm mechanism), the carriages are pulled away from the driving mechanism and pushed onto the keyboard, where they play two tones at the same time.
Although the mechanisms follow a simple inherent logic, which determines the sequence of tones that will be played, the overall behavior of the system is so complex that the sequence appears to be unpredictable for a listener. The result is a melody which is sometimes harmonic, sometimes not, but it definitely has a lot of variation.

Pulleys drive the melody mechanism

Two seperate carriages push the keyboard

Let’s have also a look at the guitar machine! At the current state this has two mechanisms. One picks the strings and the other operates the fret board. Let’s start with the picks: Six levers are constantly moving up and down, with plectra attached to their ends. All of those levers are moved by individual pulleys – and again – those pulleys all have different circumferences. The result is that each plectrum moves in a slightly different speed up and down and the played melody is basically an interference pattern.

Six plectra pick the six guitar strings in an interference pattern

The mechanism below is something like a reversed escapement mechanism, a construction which is commonly found in mechanical clockworks. It starts with a pulley, which moves a lever up and down. Each time the lever moves upwards, it grabs one tooth of the sawblade-shaped wheel and spins it by 45°. This wheel drives then another lever, which moves a steel pipe up and down the fret board.

Fret board lever construction

You can see the result below. The mechanism creates very psychedelic sounds and the effect is overall very dominant. Which I like. What I don’t like, is the fact that this effect occurs in such a periodic pattern. Therefore, I have decided to add another mechanism to this construction, which will make the pattern appear more irregular.

Steel pipe moves the fret board up and down

Overall, I have to say that the work is on a very good track. Initially, I had some issues which were mainly caused by too much friction, but now (almost 200 ball bearings later) I’m very pleased with the behavior of the machine. Everything makes a sturdy impression, which is essential regarding that it will be operated by the public, day and night, without supervision.

The finished installation will be exhibited from June 17th onwards in Wroclaw, which is one of the current European culture capitals in 2016. The Goethe Institut is organizing the exhibition of the machine as part of their Pop Up Pavillon project. I also want to thank Musikhaus Thomann for supporting my construction with a generous donation of instruments, as well as light and sound equipment.

You can find more photos of this project in high resolution, published under a CC BY 3.0 license, in this album.

PRAYDIO

Sunday December 20, 2015


PRAYDIO is a combination of a decorative, golden plastic crucifix found in a one Euro shop and a CB-radio. When someone approaches the installation, channel one of the radio opens for ethereal communication. Anyone with a CB-radio within the broadcasting range can reply the prayers, providing instant answers and guidance.

Kati and me built this little installation at Multimadeira, an artist run residency/festival on the beautiful volcanic island of Madeira. For some reasons, there are plenty of CB-radios around, so there’s always a good chance to get a response to your prayer. But sometimes, Jesus also starts to babble some unintelligible verses on his own.

Jetpack 9000

Wednesday October 28, 2015


My niece Carlotta has been visiting us those days again. She loves building stuff and all kinds of technical things and the last time she was here, she has built this awesome robot.

This time, she wanted to make a Halloween costume. We were both totally excited about this hillarious Jetpack, which was featured in a Japanese Gameshow. At the end, she built one for herself, which she named “Jetpack 9000”. It’s very handy for Halloween, as there’s plenty of space inside the fake belly where she can store her sweets.

Carlottas Jetpack

Pneumatic Computing

Thursday July 23, 2015


Charles Carcopino and me recently gave a workshop in Belgium about computing with air as part of the Mons2015 Cultural Capital program. The workshop lead to an exhibition which I’ve documented here. Don’t miss the video!

New Project: Galactic Dimension

Monday June 1, 2015


I’ve built a giant pinball machine and it’s super fun to play with! You can try it out, too, if you visit the current exhibition at Phaeno Science Center in Wolfsburg. Or, if this is too far, read my longer post about it and watch the video here.

New Project: Forbidden Fruit Machine

Monday May 18, 2015


Kati and me built a new machine: It’s a painting with a joystick! Control the apple and explore Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem’s 1592 painting “The Fall of Man”.

Check the awesome video!

Forbidden Fruit Machine

Next Level

Friday January 30, 2015


After the overwhelming success of my installation Suck the Balls! at Goethe-Institut Cracow last year, the Goethe-Institut in Prague asked me to build a similar one for their building.

The installation opened last week and will be running for the next half year. This time, the pneumatic track is roughly 70 meters long. It goes from the entrance hall, through the staircase into the first floor, where it passes the institute’s library, then it makes its way back to the ground floor. The balls race through the entire pipe system within 11 seconds, which makes them in average 22.91 km/h fast (The video above is in slow motion). That’s stunning to watch and fun to play with.
Give it a visit when you’re in Prague!

Rapid Robots

Wednesday August 27, 2014


Last week, Kati and me gave a workshop on hi-speed d.i.y. robot construction for the School of Machines, Making & Make Believe, an art & tech summer school in Berlin.

The robots are shown next Friday at the Kunstquartier Bethanien at ScholOfMaaa’s final show.

[ Read more ]

New project in Groningen:

Wednesday August 27, 2014


My latest machine, the “Pneumatic Sponge Ball Accelerator” is currently installed at the Tschumi Pavilion in Groningen. You can visit it until the end of September.

Here, you can find the full documentation, including another video from ball perspective.